Meet the CEO: Kelly Coffey
Meet Kelly Coffey: The New CEO of City National Bank
This Women's History Month, we're proud to introduce our first woman CEO, and just the fourth CEO in the bank’s 65-year history. Below, Kelly shares her experiences as a leader in the financial services industry, her inspiration for success, and ideas on how to help women succeed.
What has been your experience as a woman in the workplace, and what's your biggest piece of advice for female professionals?
I've been fortunate, because I’ve never felt disadvantaged in my work life by being a woman. I've been lucky enough to work for people who rewarded me for learning new skills and adapting to new roles. But sometimes, women need a little extra encouragement to go to the next level in their careers. We should all have the self-confidence to say, "I don’t know how to do this yet, but I can learn how."
When you start in a new position, bring your fresh perspective on how the company is doing things. Then, let them know how they can do better. Have that confidence to come in and say, “I have a view on this that I want to share.” It will make you so much more impactful in your career.
"My advice? Be brave. Be ambitious. Don't be afraid."
How did your background help shape your career?
I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, in a big Italian-Irish family. I never intended to go into banking — I studied French and international business — but my earliest memories of working are in a bank. My grandfather was the CEO of a very small bank. I was the oldest grandchild, so I would go to work with him as often as I could. I would sit at his desk with him and pretend I was reviewing his reports and greet customers as they came in and I loved it.
Why have you been such a strong advocate for women in the financial services industry?
Mentoring is important, but we also need advocates. Advocating for women has been a passion for me throughout my career, as has increasing diversity in every business I’ve led. I've long been a believer that diverse teams deliver better results. And in order for women to advance in any industry, and especially in financial services, they have to have advocates. At my last firm, I helped run a grassroots network of experienced female executives who came together to attract, retain, develop and promote a group of younger women at the firm. We knew they could get to that next level, and we wanted to make sure they were gaining the skills and feedback they needed to make it. We stepped in as advocates and it really made a difference.
How do you encourage women that you work with?
Everybody has that little voice of doubt inside their head that asks, “Can I really do this?” And I’ve seen it particularly with women in the workplace. More than a few times, I’ve had a woman in my office and I’ve offered her a bigger job and she’ll say, “I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I don’t know everything I need to know.” So I give them a bit of a push and say, “You’ll figure it out. I’ll help you do it. I wouldn’t offer you this job if I didn’t think you could do it.” Women need to know that they can do it, and if they don’t know everything right away, they’ll learn. And if they make a mistake, they’ll learn from it and be better for it.
"Have confidence in yourself — and be yourself — no matter what you’re doing."
What do you say to young women who are looking at careers in financial services?
All young people need to see somebody who has done what they want to do, so there’s a path they can follow. At one of my first jobs in financial services, there were very few women at the firm. I made a conscious effort to think about how we could pull women into the business, and I enlisted the men to help me recruit amazing women to work with us. By the time I left that position, we were over 50 percent female. Once you reach critical mass, it becomes self-sustaining. So I tell people that all it takes is one woman to blaze the trail and others will follow.
Over the course of your career, how have things changed for women in the workplace?
There were fewer women in financial services when I started my career, there's no doubt about that. And the pay gap is closing — but there's still work to be done. I'm looking forward to this next generation of millennial women leading the charge. They're more driven and educated than ever before, and career success is a huge priority. I think our younger generation will continue to help balance the scales.
On the personal side, when I started in banking I wore a lot of dark suits. Women didn’t wear pants in the office — it just wasn’t done. Now, I wear what I want, including bright colors and fun shoes! There’s so much more opportunity to express your personality in our industry — and not just through fashion — than there was when I started.
How City National Finds Balance
City National has been recognized by Forbes as one of America's Best Employers for Diversity. It's part of our culture, inside and out.
Our mission for gender equality begins with our commitment to diversity among our colleagues, and it continues through our involvement in the organizations and initiatives we believe in, which include:
- The Young Women's Coding Clinic
- United Way's Empower(Her) event
- The Los Angeles Downtown Women's Center
- Mount St. Mary's Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California
- The Girls Academic Leadership Academy
- The Prom Dress Giveaway hosted by the LA Clippers Foundation
- The Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival
- Sanctuary for Families
We're determined to help close the gender gap and open up new opportunities by celebrating and supporting women in our workplace and throughout our communities. The men and women of City National are helping forge a #BalanceforBetter.